Climate Change, Kalbar and Water (Part 2) by Ursula Alquier

Protest against the mine.

Extracts from a Submission for EES on the Fingerboards Mineral Sands Mining project in East Gippsland for Farmers for Climate Action*

As rainfall in the region decreases, safe guarding clean water for food producing irrigators must be made a priority, this project threatens this water security. Based on local irrigation figures, if the 3 billion litres of water Kalbar requires annually was redirected to growing vegetables, 3 times more jobs could be created than Kalbar’s proposal. These would be long-term sustainable jobs to grow food.

Farmers for Climate Action farmer Jenny Robertson** stated:

“As a farmer I am first & foremost really concerned that this mine could be built in one of our state’s most productive food bowls. My husband & I run a 1000 hectare merino farm which has been in the family for over 70 years. We love what we do and have lived through major droughts, bushfires and worsening climate conditions. Through these challenges we have had to change how we do things and have put a lot of work into adapting our pasture and stock. This mine proposal puts all of this at risk.”

“I’m concerned that it could impact not just the local area but all surrounding farms and the RAMSAR listed Gippsland Lakes system. We rely on water from the aquifer for our stock water, as do many other farmers. It is also a really important resource for irrigation. If this was to be compromised either due to contamination or a drop in the water table this would impact us all.”

“It’s devastating that a proposal like this is even being considered, it feels like as farmers our voices are not being heard, that we are undervalued and that the many risks this mine poses to our region are being ignored.”

Kalbar needs over 3 billion litres of water annually for processing and dust suppression for 15 years. This shows how much water is needed to control the dust which will potentially pose major human and animal health risks. Kalbar’s high water consumption could lead to tighter water restrictions from the Mitchell River, which is relied on by the local horticulture industry for irrigation. The risk of contamination to both the Mitchell River and Perry River due to the close proximity to the proposed mine puts at risk the regions water security.

*This is the third part of the Farmers for Climate Action Submission. See Part 1 and Part 2. The full paper can be accessed here. The author was a prominent organiser in Gippsland for the grassroots ‘Lock the Gate’ movement. I have blogged on the Kalbar proposals here and here. Ed.

** Jenny Robertson runs a merino farm in Bengworden, East Gippsland.